ATM: Three Reasons The Bears Shouldn’t Draft Quenton Nelson

| March 21st, 2018

Quenton Nelson is widely considered to be the best guard to enter the league in several years and the Bears have a big hole at that position. But here are three reasons they shouldn’t draft the Notre Dame guard with the eighth pick.

3. Generational prospects are rarely generational players.

It seems like we have a player who is considered a generational prospect every year, but those guys almost never pan out.

It’s too early to make a call on either of the last two drafts, but look at recent history. Jameis Winston isn’t a generational quarterback like he was thought to be. Jadeveon Clowney is terrific, but hardly generational. What about Reggie Bush? Ndamukong Suh? Even Andrew Luck has been brilliant when he’s on the field. But generational? No.

The guys who end up being generational players are the ones no one — or at least very few — thought would be. JJ Watt and Aaron Donald both went closer to the middle of the first round, Randy Moss barely cracked the top-20, Aaron Rodgers went 24th.

The draft is a crap shoot. There is no such thing as a sure bet. This isn’t even the first time this decade we’ve heard someone described as a generational guard. Remember Chance Warmack? He went 10th and he’s a backup for another team now.

Nelson is bigger, stronger and more athletic than Warmack, but their predraft profiles are almost identical. It’s so rare that players who have the predraft hype of Nelson actually pan out.

2. Positional value is a real thing.

Even if Nelson really is a generational guard, it doesn’t mean he’s going to have a massive impact on the Bears going forward.

The Bears have had terrific guard play nearly every season since they drafted Kyle Long in 2013 — pairing him with either Josh Sitton or Matt Slauson. It hasn’t translated into wins.

Top 10 picks should be used on players you can’t otherwise get: quarterbacks, pass rushers and guys who take the ball away. Generally, you can’t find those players later in the draft. It isn’t just that teams can find guards later in the draft, it’s that the best guards are usually found later in the draft.

  • Andrew Norwell was an undrafted free agent and is now the highest paid guard in the league.
  • There are 23 guards who have contracts that pay an average of $6 million per season. Only five were taken in the first round and only two of those five still play for the team that drafted them.
  • The only position that has a lower percentage of first round picks among it’s highest paid players is center.

The 2018 draft looks a lot like the 2013 draft when Warmack was one of two guards drafted in the top 10. Both he and Jonathan Cooper are barely hanging on in the league. Justin Pugh and Long went 19th and 20th that same year, Travis Frederick was 31st, Larry Warford went 65th and Brian Winters was 72nd. There is going to be really good value in the middle rounds, something the Bears have to keep in mind.

The Bears have had great guard play for a number of years and we’ve seen how well that has worked out.

1. Harry Hiestand.

With the best offensive line coach in the world, the Bears should be able to put together a really good offensive line without having to spend a top-10 pick on a guard.

Nelson comes into the draft already having the advantage of being coached by Hiestand. That’s largely why he was so great in college and why he’s going to be a starter from Day One in the NFL. There’s no reason why Hiestand shouldn’t be able to take a second or third rounder and make them into a capable starting guard. It’s what the really good teams with great offensive line coaches do.

The Packers let both Josh Sitton and TJ Lang go the last two years and replaced them without much of a hiccup because they have a great offensive line coach. The Bears have two players — Jordan Morgan and Hronis Grasu — who could really benefit from Hiestand’s coaching, but that wouldn’t matter if the Bears took Nelson in the first round. Unless, of course, Kyle Long isn’t in the team’s plans going forward.

I wouldn’t have a problem with most teams using a high first-round pick on Nelson, but no other team has Hiestand. With that advantage, the Bears should be able to build a terrific offensive line year in and year out without having to spend premium assets up front.

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